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The Foundation of Laying On of Hands


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									             The Foundation of Repentance
“Can you name the six foundational principles of the teachings of Jesus?” This question really
set me back. I had been teaching the Bible for three years and had led hundreds of people to
Christ and into the baptism with the Holy Spirit. I felt that I was a pretty mature Christian. Yet I
could not list the basic principles that Christ had taught. These principles were soon pointed out
to me in the Bible from Hebrews 6:1-2,

       Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto
       perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and
       of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and
       of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

Not only could I not name the foundational principles, but also I did not know very much about
these subjects. I began to remedy this situation by means of a subject by subject study of these
doctrines. As soon as I began teaching these principles, I found out how ignorant most other
Christians were of them. However, God’s people were extremely hungry to learn of these basic
truths. I have now been teaching these doctrines systematically since 1972 (not exclusively) and
have had as many as one hundred disciples coming regularly five nights a week (not including
Sunday) for months and even years to hear these truths taught. There has been much lasting
fruit from these teachings and I am grateful to the Lord for leading me in this direction.

I recently had another question put to me that challenged me again: “When was the last time
you heard a sermon based upon what Jesus spoke? Most sermons today come from Paul’s
writings.” I realized that most of the teaching I had done with respect to these foundational
principles through the last sixteen years had been based primarily from Paul’s writing rather
than the teachings of Jesus. Of course, there was not anything wrong with emphasizing Paul’s
writings, but if these doctrines were the principles of Christ’s teaching, then what did Jesus
Himself have to say about them? Again, I am constrained to search the Scriptures to find the

                                       Scope of Paper
The restrictions of time and length assigned to this paper will not permit an in-depth research
into all six of these doctrines. A cursory examination of the foundational principles, on the
other hand, would be entirely unsatisfactory. Therefore, this paper will focus on repentance,
the first of these foundational doctrines listed in Hebrews 6:1-2. Two questions will be
answered in this paper. The first question is, “What is a foundation and why is repentance a
foundational principle?” The second question is, “What did Jesus teach about repentance?”

Bill Oden                                        1                        Grace Fellowship Church
            The Foundation of Repentance
This first issue will be approached by taking principles which Jesus taught concerning
foundations and applying them to repentance. The second question will be answered by
establishing a definition of repentance and using it as a framework to “show forth” Jesus’
teachings on repentance. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John will be searched for Jesus’s teachings
about repentance. Quotations attributed directly to Jesus in Acts and Revelation will be used
also. The paper will not be restricted exclusively to the words of Jesus, but will include the
gospel writer’s comments and background explanations, seeing that they were inspired by the
Holy Spirit to write of Him (II Timothy 3:16-17). This background will also include the ministry of
John the Baptist who was specifically sent to prepare Christ’s way, and that particularly by
preaching repentance (Mark 1:2-4). Other Bible authors occasionally may be quoted, but only
to summarize or succinctly state a principle established in Jesus’ teaching, for the question is
concerning what Jesus taught about repentance.

Much has been said in recent times discouraging the use of parables with respect to teaching
doctrine. It seems that many have misused the parables, assigning all sorts of allegorical
meanings to the events and characters of Jesus’ parables which He never intended. However,
while aware of this misuse, I do not intend to “throw out the baby with the dirty bath water.”
This doctrine of repentance is a teaching of Jesus. Jesus taught with parables. Some of his
parables were allegorical. All of his parables had a main point. Therefore, with awareness and
caution in regard to all of this, I intend to use the parables that Jesus used concerning
repentance unashamedly. After all, the Bible does plainly state in II Timothy 3:16 that, “All
scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine …”

                                      The Foundation
It is important to note that this doctrine of repentance (along with the other five doctrines
mentioned above) is referred to as “the foundation” (Hebrews 6:1-2). Consideration will now
be given to principles concerning foundations, derived from Jesus’ teachings. Application will be
made specifically to the doctrine of repentance. A good place to start is the beginning.

Foundations are Laid in the Beginning
“And Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth...” (Hebrews 1:10). God
lays the foundation in the beginning. Jesus speaks of “things which have been kept secret from
the foundation of the world” (Matthew 13:35) and of “the kingdom prepared for you (the
righteous) from the foundation of the world.” Such terms as “first principles of the oracles of
God,” “milk,” and “principles of the doctrine of Christ” are used in the context surrounding the
mention of repentance and these other foundational doctrines (Hebrews 5:10-6:3). The
marginal rendering of “the principles of the doctrine of Christ” is “the word of the beginning of

Bill Oden                                       2                        Grace Fellowship Church
             The Foundation of Repentance
Christ.” Just as the “A, B, C’s” are the beginning, and thus the foundation of reading, and the “1,
2, 3’s” are the beginning, and thus the foundation of mathematics, so are these “first
principles” the beginning, and thus the foundation of the Word of God. Just as a baby’s
digestive system is founded or established with milk before he can handle strong meat, even so
the Lord desires for Christians “as new born babes to desire the sincere milk of the word that
they may grow thereby” (I Peter 2:2).

A Foundation is to be Built Upon
A foundation is something to build upon -- to found upon. These six doctrines -- repentance,
faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection, and eternal judgment -- are an integral part of
all doctrines in the Bible. Just as the top floor of the Empire State Building is still connected with
the foundation, even so, the most “heavenly” doctrine in the Bible is resting on the foundation
of Christ’s teachings. The foundational teachings are not, therefore, an end, but a beginning.
Jesus tells us in Luke 14:28-30 that if a man lays a foundation and does not finish building upon
it, he will be mocked.

Foundations are Essential for a Work to Endure
Jesus reveals the importance of a foundation for the endurance of a house in Luke 6:24-49 and
Matthew 7:24-27. Jesus compares a wise man who comes to Jesus, hears his sayings, and does
them to a man who built his house upon the rock foundation. Jesus contrasts this with a foolish
man who hears Jesus’ words and does not do them. Such a man is likened unto one who built
his house upon the sand. Jesus tells us that “when” (not “if”) the flood arises the house without
a foundation will immediately fall. On the other hand, the house built upon the rock could not
be shaken. The comparison implies that when the storms of life arise, the man that is hearing
and doing the Lord’s word will not be shaken, but the man who hears and does them not will

It is so easy to get one’s eyes on the house, that which is seen, and to ignore the unseen
foundation. How many Christians, not wanting to “waste time” digging deep, have ignored such
basic truths as repentance and faith and have been carried away with the “deeper truths” of
dispensationalism or eschatology? When the storms of life come, a dogmatic opinion of
Ezekiel’s “wheel within a wheel” (Ezekiel 1), or a learned interpretation of “the seven thunders”
(Revelation 10:1-4) will not enable one to stand. A Christian that is established, strengthened,
and settled in the foundational teaching of Jesus, however, will weather any storm.

Jesus used this same principle with respect to a plant in the parable of the sower (Matthew 14:
Mark 4; Luke 8). He speaks of a plant that does not have a good root system (the foundation of
a plant), so that when the sun arises the plant is withered away. Again, this parable is

Bill Oden                                         3                        Grace Fellowship Church
             The Foundation of Repentance
concerning God’s word going deep into the heart of man. The sun of tribulation and pressure
will destroy a person without a deep, foundational root system in God’s word. On the other
hand, that same sun shining on a well rooted plant (person) will cause it to grow and be fruitful.

Let the Christian, therefore, dig deep into God’s word, and let the word go deep into him. Let
him start at the beginning and build his house upon the rock. “But the word of the Lord was
unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line; here a
little and there a little” until “the Lord God ... lay in Zion ... a sure foundation: he that believeth
shall not make haste” (Isaiah 28:13, 16).

A Threefold Foundation
In making the comparison between building our life upon God’s word and founding a house
upon a rock, Jesus mentions three aspects of this process: (1) “Whosoever cometh to me”; (2)
“Whosoever heareth my sayings”; and (3) “Whosoever doeth them” (Luke 6:47). “Coming to
Jesus” speaks of our personal relationship with Jesus. This will be referred to as the “person of
Christ.” I Corinthians 3:11 and Isaiah 28:16 show that Christ Himself is the foundation. “Hearing
his sayings” refers to learning his word. This will be called the “principles of Christ.” Luke 6:46-
49 and Hebrews 5:12-6:3 show how essential this is to a foundation. “And doeth them” is the
obeying or doing of His word. The “practice of Christ” will be used to describe this truth. If we
do not practice the principles Christ taught, then we are not laying a solid foundation but
merely deceiving ourselves (James 1:22-25; Luke 6:46; Hebrews 5:14). Therefore, it is a
threefold foundation upon which man is to build his life in order not to be shaken by the storms
of life. Establishing this foundation involves coming, hearing and doing: the person, principles
and practice of Christ.

To summarize, it is clear that (1) foundations have to do with the beginnings of what is built: (2)
they are not an end but rather something solid to build upon; and (3) they are essential if that
work is to stand. Thus the foundation takes into account the past, present, and future. The
foundation Jesus spoke about had to do with the person of Christ, the principles of Christ, and
the practice of Christ. In light of these principles concerning foundations, is repentance

Repentance is Foundational
Repentance is definitely foundational in the sense of being a beginning doctrine. Besides being
referred to as a “first principle” in Hebrews 5:10-6:2, it was one of the first doctrines Jesus
proclaimed in his public ministry. Mark 1:14-15, as well as Matthew 4:17, record these early
preachings: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repentance was also the first and
main message of John the Baptist who was sent before Jesus’ face to prepare the way before

Bill Oden                                         4                         Grace Fellowship Church
             The Foundation of Repentance
him. This is referred to as “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark
1:1-4). Again, when Jesus first sent his disciples out to preach, their message was “that men
should repent” (Mark 6:12).

Another principle mentioned from Jesus’ teaching is that of a foundation not being an end, but
rather something to build upon. This is evident in Hebrews 6:1 where Paul exhorts, “Therefore,
leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on (not go off) unto perfection
(completion), not laying again the foundation of repentance....” A wise builder does not lay the
foundation in one corner of the lot and build the house in another corner. Jesus immediately
began building on repentance by commanding people to “repent ye and believe the gospel”
(Mark 1:15). Jesus also ended his earthly ministry by sharing that remission of sins should be
added to or built upon this foundation of repentance (Luke 24:47). There are many other
principles from God’s word that have their solid grounding in the foundational doctrine of
repentance, as will be discussed in the second part of this paper.

Repentance is also essential for the teachings and work of Christ to stand. Jesus’ chief work is
bringing salvation to man. To this end, God sent his Son “that whosoever believeth on him
should not perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). He showed also that without repentance, belief is not
possible when he told the Pharisees, “You repented not afterwards that you might believe”
(Matthew 21:32). It can be seen, therefore, that repentance is foundational with respect to
being essential to endurance.

The final point noted from the teachings of Jesus concerning foundations is threefold. The
foundation Jesus wants to lay in the lives of his people has to do with the “person of Christ,”
the “principles of Christ,” and “the practice of Christ.” The foundation of repentance, first of all,
involves a personal experience with Jesus. This is shown in Christ’s words to Paul on the road to
Damascus: “... to open their eyes, and to turn (an aspect of repentance) them from darkness to
light, and from the power of Satan unto God...” (Acts 26:18). Paul later sums up his teaching to
the Gentiles at Ephesus as “repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ”
(Acts 20:21). Secondly, repentance is certainly a “principle” taught by Christ as stated in
Hebrews 6:1-2 and as will be detailed in the second part of this paper. Thirdly, Jesus commands
us to practice repentance, not just learn about it. Mark 1:15, Matthew 4:17, and Luke 13:3, 5 all
implore man to repent. A person may memorize every verse in the Bible about repentance and
be able to quote them backwards and forwards, but except he repent, he is building his life on
shifting sand, and great will be the fall of that house.

Therefore, repentance is seen to be in every respect a foundational principle of the doctrine of
Christ. How sad it is today that even many Christian leaders completely ignore this fundamental

Bill Oden                                        5                        Grace Fellowship Church
            The Foundation of Repentance
and essential doctrine. Many of the so-called “most successful” witnessing methods do not
even mention repentance. It is no wonder that the storms of life sweep so many of these
unfounded “new converts” away. Many of these people, unless Christ brings them to
repentance apart from this witnessing plan, do not even get born again.

Richard Lovelace, a modern theologian, states that, “In many evangelical circles it is assumed
that repentance (“accepting Jesus as Lord”) may come as a second stage, occurring
considerably later than initial conversion (“accepting Jesus as Savior”). This occurs because
some evangelists do not take a very clear aim at the target of sin, do not present the meaning
of the cross, and do not call for repentant faith.” Johann Arndt, a sixteenth century German
pietist who was a precursor to the Reformation, proclaimed boldly:

       Jesus said, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”
       (Matthew 9:12-13). By this declaration the Lord teaches us, that he indeed calls
       sinners, but that he calls them to repentance; whence it is evident, that no man
       can come to Christ without true repentance ... there are many who call
       themselves Christians who never repented, and who yet presume to lay claim to
       a share in the merits of Christ, and in the remission of sins he hath purchased.

Perhaps the neglect of repentance has been due to the distorted concept of this truth. Many
equate repentance with a “fanatic” on the street corner yelling, “Repent the world will end
tomorrow!” Perhaps the neglect of repentance among Protestants is an overreaction to the
Catholic practice of undergoing punishment for sins. This goes back to the mistranslation of
metanoeo by Jerome in the Latin Vulgate as “do penance.” Whatever the reason, this neglect
needs to be corrected and followers of Jesus need to follow their Master in proclaiming,
“Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). For as the Psalmist David so aptly states, “If
the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).

                 The Teaching of Jesus Concerning Repentance
It has been shown that repentance is a foundational doctrine of Christ. A look will now be taken
at the different concepts of repentance that Jesus taught. This will be done by taking a
definition of repentance and using it as a framework upon which to show forth the teachings of
Christ on this subject. Before this can be done, however, let us establish this definition.

Definition of Repentance
There have been many learned and spiritual man throughout history who have sought to define
repentance. Tertullian, an early church leader, defined repentance with these words:

Bill Oden                                      6                       Grace Fellowship Church
            The Foundation of Repentance
“Repentance, men understand, as far as nature is able, to be an emotion of the mind arising
from disgust at some preciously cherished worse sentiment.” Johann Arndt sought to cover all
the bases with his definition:

       Repentance, or true conversion, is the work of the Holy Spirit, under the
       influence of which man, through the law, acknowledges his sin, and the wrath of
       God provoked against it; and earnestly mourns over his offenses; and then
       through the gospel, the grace of God by faith in Jesus Christ, he obtains the
       remission of his sins.

Matthew Henry, an influential commentator of the last century, stated that Jesus’ call to
repentance was for men “to change their minds and reform their lives.” He also described
repentance as “a new heart and a new way.” Marvin Vincent, a seminary professor, allowed
that “repentance has been rightly defined as “such a virtuous alteration of the mind and
purpose as begets a like virtuous change in life and practice …” Reverend Jeff Jernigan, a
Presbyterian minister and leader in the Navigators, a modern day evangelistic and discipleship
organization, defined repentance as “an act of the will involving a change of thinking (not
feelings) with a resulting change in conduct.”

Most of these definitions are in accordance with the meaning of the Greek word which is used
in the New Testament for repentance. According to Young’s Analytical Concordance to the
Bible, the Greek word for the verb “repent” in the New Testament is metanoeo. This word
appears thirty-four times. The noun “repentance” is from the Greek word metanoia which is
used twenty-four times. Young gives this word the basic meaning of “to have another mind.”
Dr. Marvin Vincent writes that this word comes from meta, a preposition meaning “after” and
to the verb noeo, meaning “to perceive or think.” He states that meta implies a meaning of
both time and change indicated by the words “after” and “different.” He thus comes to the
meaning of “to think differently after” or “an after thought different from the former thought”;
hence, “a change of mind.” Similarly, Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
defines metanoeo as a “change of heart.”

One other Greek word translated “repentance is metamelomai. Young’s gives it the meaning of
“to be careful or concerned with.” Vincent shows this word to come from the same preposition
meta meaning “after” and the verb melo meaning “to be an object of care.” Metamelomai is
used only six times in the New Testament. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
defines this word as “to feel regret” and “the experiencing of remorse.”

Bill Oden                                      7                       Grace Fellowship Church
            The Foundation of Repentance
This word metamelomai is the word used in Matthew 27:3 in which “Judas repented himself”
and then in verse five “... and went and hanged himself.” This is obviously not the type of
repentance to which Jesus is calling us. Perhaps as an overreaction to some that say Judas was
saved because he repented, others have sought to make metanoeo and metamelomai
complete opposites in order to prove that Judas was not saved. However, as Stephen Homey
has pointed out in his special study on these two words, “Since a change of heart concerning sin
is often accompanied by remorse, it would be natural for metanoeo and metamelomai to be
used together, and for concepts they convey to overlap.” This can definitely be seen in
Matthew 21:29, 32 where the son that repented (metamelomai) obviously had a change of
mind, a change of behavior, and did the will of the father. In addition, it is obvious in verse 32
that Jesus was not calling the Pharisees to anything less than true repentance and faith. As the
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament states, “The two (metanoeo and metamelomai)
may of course converge.”

The Proposed Definition
There are many definitions from this group of scholars which bring out many interesting
insights into the definition of repentance. Since it has been stated that “Your own insight into
the Biblical text ... is of the first importance,” I would like to relate a personal incident which
gave me insight into the meaning of repentance. This happened before I had read any of these
books, but had only studied the Bible. I see from studying these books now that my insight is in
line with what most of these men have seen, and that brings assurance and safety.

I was walking up to the pulpit in a Bible class one Monday evening in 1978. I had been intensely
studying repentance from the Bible for several days and was filled with fervor and inspiration to
preach and teach. My only apprehension was that I had not yet settled on a definition of
“repentance.” As I stepped behind the pulpit, these words came into my mind as plainly as if I
had heard an audible voice: “Repentance is a change of heart, given by God, which results in a
turning from evil and dead works to God and His works.”

I looked at my Bible which was opened to Luke 15 and this same definition leaped off the page
at me.

“A change of heart (or mind)” – (Luke 15:18) “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto
him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.”

“given by God” – (Luke 15:14-17) The famine, the timing of the famine, and job feeding swine,
and the lack of help from any man all point to the providential hand of God in bringing him “to

Bill Oden                                       8                        Grace Fellowship Church
            The Foundation of Repentance
“which results in a turning” – (Luke 15:20) “And he arose, and came to his father.”

“from evil” – (Luke 15:12-13) rebellion, waste, and riotous living (verse 18), sin (verse 30),

“and dead works” – (Luke 15:24, 32) “For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost
and is found.”

“to God” – (Luke 15:18, 21) “I have sinned against heaven ...” (heaven is often used to mean
God), “... and in thy sight ...” (the father is interpreted to be a type of the Heavenly Father –
Luke 15:7, 10).

“and His works” – (Luke 15:19) “make me as one of thy hired servants” (the son is willing to do
anything). Luke 15:22-24, 25, 27. But the father’s works were those of forgiveness, restoration,
rejoicing, and reconciliation.

Now I do not want to imply here that “God spoke to me and, therefore, this definition should
be accepted as the right one.” It is, however, very similar to the previously referenced scholarly
definitions and Greek meaning. Therefore, this definition of repentance – “A change of heart
given by God, which results in a turning from evil and dead works to God and His works” – will
be used as a framework in which to lay out the different aspects of Jesus’ teaching on the
foundation of repentance.

A Change of Heart
That the heart (the depths of the mind or soul) is evil and, therefore, needs to be changed,
cannot be disputed from the gospels. Jesus explained in Matthew 15:18-20, “But those things
which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart and they defile the man. For out of
the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness,
blasphemies These are the things which defile a man.” He mentions how that “an evil man out
of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil” (Luke 6:45). The scribes
thought evil in their hearts (Matthew 9:4), the Pharisees hardened their hearts against Jesus
(Mark 3:5-6), and even the disciples of Jesus had their hearts quickly hardened (Mark 6:52,
8:17). Jesus warned his disciples, “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be
overcharged with surfeiting (excess), and drunkenness, and cares of this life...” (Luke 21:34).
Truly as Jeremiah 17:9 declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately
wicked: who can know it?”

On the other hand, Jesus speaks of “a good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringing
forth that which is good” (Luke 6:45). He also speaks of “an honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15).

Bill Oden                                       9                       Grace Fellowship Church
            The Foundation of Repentance
How can the evil heart be changed to the good heart? Repentance, a change of heart, is the

As seen in the preceding verses, it is from the heart, the depths of man’s thought and
reasoning, that man speaks and acts. God does not want to change just a few thoughts off the
top of man’s head, but the very source and foundation of those thoughts. As William Douglas
Chamberlain puts it in his book, The Meaning of Repentance, “The emphasis (of repentance) is
on the transformation of the whole mind, heart and will of man. The word that is used for
Christian repentance, metanoeo, marks a complete change in mental outlook and life design.”
This repentance which changes a man’s very thought processes from evil to good is not merely
man changing his mind, but it is God changing his heart.

Neither is repentance simply an emotional change. Certainly a change of the very depth of a
man’s soul may bring emotion. Jesus taught that repentance brought rejoicing in heaven (Luke
15:7, 10) as well as on earth (Luke 15:5, 6, 9, 23-25, 32). Jesus also placed a blessing on those
who mourned and wept (Luke 6:21; Matthew 5:4). The woman in 7:36-50 was repenting with
much emotion (weeping, tears, and kissing Jesus’ feet), and the publican in Luke 18:9-14
certainly showed emotion as he smote upon his breast while crying for mercy. But emotion in
itself is not equivalent to repentance. The rich young rule was sad, grieved, and very sorrowful,
but he did not have a change of heart (Mark 10:22; Matthew 19:22; Luke 19:23). He still
esteemed his money above following Jesus.

Godly repentance is neither man in his own intellectual ability simply changing his mind about
his deeds or about God, nor is it man merely having a religious, emotional experience. It is God
changing man’s heart. As Basilea Schlink declares:

       We do not have repentance of ourselves. We cannot bring ourselves to
       repentance. No one is capable of changing his own hard heart into a soft,
       contrite heart. It is a gift of grace from heaven when this is accomplished in us
       for we are totally unable to do so.

Given by God
Repentance is a gift. It cannot be earned. Jesus commanded man to repent (Matthew 4:17). Yet
Jesus clearly teaches that without him man can do nothing (John 15:5). Johann Arndt, in
describing the gift of repentance, states, “...nor must he (the repenter) attribute anything of his
own strength of ability.” One must not merely try to repent -- try to change his heart, but one
must “cry “ to repent -- cry out to God to change his heart. (“Cry” does not refer to weeping,
but to sincerely calling upon God to change the heart.) Jesus does not teach his followers to do

Bill Oden                                       10                       Grace Fellowship Church
            The Foundation of Repentance
penance, to crawl on their knees up the steps of the Vatican or to count beads and to say a
multitude of vainly repetitious prayers (Matthew 6:7), but he does call us to repentance, a gift
which He will gladly give for the asking (Luke 11:4, 8, 10; Matthew 7:11).

What is God’s attitude towards repentance? First, it might help to answer this question: What is
God’s attitude towards man’s perishing? God so loved man that He sent His own Son to be
lifted up on the cross that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting
life (John 3:14-16). Could God’s willingness to save us from perishing be shown in any greater
way? Jesus stated line upon line in Luke 13:3, 5 that, “... except ye repent ye shall all likewise
perish.” Therefore, God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to
repentance” (Mark 2:17). In summary, God’s attitude towards repentance is that he is willing
for us to repent. He is so willing that he sent his only begotten Son to give us repentance, and in
His goodness He calls us to repentance. If one does not come to repentance, God is not to

In conjunction with Jesus calling sinners to repentance, it is stated in Romans 2:4 that God is so
rich in goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering that in his goodness he leads us to repentance.
One example of Jesus leading us to repentance is his submission to John’s baptism of
repentance, even though he had no sin. By Christ’s example of obedience, he “fulfilled all
righteousness” and showed us the way to righteousness through repentance (Matthew 3:13-

One other way Jesus called or led to repentance was by coming and doing the works that he did
(Mark 2:17; John 15:22-24). The miracles Jesus did, which were the works of the Father, were
signs whereby many could recognize that Jesus was the Son of God and repent and believe
(John 14:10-11; John 10:31-38). Jesus warned Chorazin and Capernaum and upbraided them for
not repenting because he had done most of his mighty works on these cities. Jesus states that if
the mighty works done there had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long
ago (Matthew 11:20-24; Luke 10:13-15).

However, when evil men came to seek a sign (perhaps to try and trap him somehow as they
tried to do with his words -- Luke 11:53-54; Matthew 22:15; and his miracles -- Matthew 17:1-4;
Mark 8:11-13), Jesus would give them no sign such as they were seeking (Matthew 12:38-39;
Luke 23:8-11). He reasoned that since Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, how much
more should they repent at the preaching of Christ, one greater than Jonah. Jesus brought out
in Luke 16:27-31 that if sinful men would not believe Moses and the prophets they would not
be persuaded though one rose from the dead. This is exactly the one sign Jesus would give
those evil men (Matthew 12:39, 49), the sign of his resurrection. Therefore, the words of Jesus

Bill Oden                                       11                       Grace Fellowship Church
             The Foundation of Repentance
are sufficient reason for man to repent. In his great goodness God gave (and gives) many
miracles or signs to point the way. But God will not be mocked by those who will not believe.
This is revealed so vividly in Matthew 23:29-39. Evil Jews in the past had murdered the
prophets God sent to bring Israel to repentance. Evil scribes and Pharisees, calling these
murderers “fathers,” would kill and persecute future prophets that Jesus would send unto
them. Then Jesus cries:

       O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are
       sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered by children together, even as a
       hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.

Jesus will do everything possible (short of violating his righteous principles) in order to bring
sinners to repentance. The parable of the barren fig tree expresses this aspect of God’s
longsuffering (Luke 13:6-9). The dresser intercedes on behalf of the fig tree for one more
chance to bear fruit. He does this even though common sense dictates that it will never be
fruitful. The dresser is willing to put extra work into it by digging it and fertilizing it in order to
bring about a change. Yes, a true repentance brings a change, not only in the heart, but in what
comes forth, a change in fruitfulness and deeds.

Which Results in a Turning
Some define repentance as a change of mind. Others define repentance as a turning in action.
As seen in Luke 15:18-21, repentance involves both aspects: “I will arise and go to my father
and will say ... I have sinned” (change of heart); “and he arose and came to his father ... and ...
said unto him, Father, I have sinned” (change in action). True repentance has results.

John the Baptist baptized people unto repentance. He would not baptize someone who had not
repented. When the Pharisees and the Sadducees came to his baptism, he called them a
generation of vipers and commanded them to “bring forth fruits (or works – Acts 26:22) worthy
of repentance.” John also had specific instructions for specific groups so they could realize what
changes would results when they had truly repented (Luke 3:8-20). As Reverend Jeff Jernigan
states, “True inward repentance is often demonstrated in sacrificial steps taken to abandon

Jesus spoke of a man with two sons in Matthew 21:28-32. The first son directly disobeyed his
father to his face saying, “I will not” go work in the vineyard. Afterwards he repented and went.
Jesus said that he did the will of the father. The other son said, “I go, sir” but went not. Again,
we see that repentance results in a turning. The question often arises that if a person has truly
repented (had a change of heart that results in a turning from evil to God), will he ever sin

Bill Oden                                         12                        Grace Fellowship Church
            The Foundation of Repentance
again? A similar question which arises when the person does sin again, “Was his repentance
genuine?” It should be noted that just as fruit (the example of the results of repentance used by
John the Baptist as cited above) grows and matures through a definite process, even so does
the fruit of repentance.

Jesus shows in Luke 17:3-4 that it is possible for a person to sin, repent (metanoeo), and be
forgiven by a man seven times in a day. (Actually, four hundred and ninety times would be
closer to the truth if Matthew 18:21-22 is considered.) In fact, Jesus requires his disciples to
forgive in this manner. If Jesus requires his followers to do this, how much more will God
forgive us many times for trespassing against him.

Now, lest someone should say, “I can sin all I want and then simply say ‘I repent’,” let it be
remembered that repentance is a change of heart, not just words, and that God, who knows
the hearts, will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7). God knows whether one’s repentance is sincere
and true or whether one is simply mocking him. The point being made in the last paragraph is
that it is possible to truly repent, receive forgiveness, and yet sin again. As one grows in
repentance, as he continues to cry out to God to change his heart, the change will continue and
the sins will become fewer and farther between. Reverend Jeff Jernigan in his article, “Changes
of the Heart”, teaching, “Repentance is not a single act, but a process. A repentant heart should
characterize our lives if we are to continue growing in Christ. Let’s not kid ourselves with the
myth that once we repent of our sin, it will never trouble us again.”

From Evil
The turning that repentance results in is, first of all, from evil and dead works. Aside from the
sins already mentioned in the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus specifically mentions
repentance from disobedience (Matthew 21:29); unbelief (Mark 1:15), trespass against a
person (Luke 17:3), and sin (Matthew 9:13). Of course, since Jesus came to call sinners to
repentance, all sin should be repented of.

One should not only think of repentance from apparent evils such as murder, adultery, theft,
etc., but also from bad attitudes of the heart. It should be remembered that repentance is not
only asking God to forgive, but also to change the heart. Jesus teaches that such things as evil
thoughts, covetousness, deceit, lasciviousness (lustfulness), an evil eye, pride and even
foolishness proceed from the heart and are evil and defile man (Mark 7:20-23). In Mark 1:15,
Jesus commands people to “repent ye, and believe the gospel.” One of the greatest sins to be
repented of is unbelief.

Bill Oden                                      13                       Grace Fellowship Church
            The Foundation of Repentance
Jesus is wanting to bring about a new way of thinking – a change of heart whereby people begin
to think God’s way and not man’s way (Isaiah 55:7-9). Jesus so often came against the scribes’
and Pharisees’ concept of being spiritual. He did not always call it sin, but he called for a new
conception of godliness, a repentance, a change of thinking (Matthew 5:20; 23:1-12). Jesus
often called the Pharisees hypocrites (Matthew 15:7; 22:18; 23:13-15, 23, 25, 27-29 ). He dealt
with their wrong judgments (John 8:15; 7:24). Martha needed to repent (ask God to change her
heart) in regard to attitude in serving Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). The disciples needed a change in
thinking about the future with respect to daily needs and priorities (Luke 12:22-34). Jesus
taught a change in the concept of exalting oneself in order to get to the top (Luke 14:7-11;
Matthew 20:24-28). So many of these ways are not thought of as a flagrant sin, but are realms
where repentance, a change of heart is needed.

This raises an interesting point about repentance. repentance is not only for the unbeliever
initially coming to Christ, but there is a daily repentance for believers. Repentance for believers
is vividly shown in Revelation chapters two and three where Jesus commands churches,
assemblies of Christians, to repent (Revelation 2:5, 16; 3:3, 19).

Several authors and church leaders should be quoted as to this point. Clement, an early church
leader, writing to Christians in his “Second Letter” implores them, “Let us, then, repent with our
whole heart so that none of us will be lost.” William Chamberlain quotes Calvin as saying,
“Repentance is never complete in this life; it progresses until the day of death.” Even though
these two men may have greatly differed with respect to their beliefs concerning “eternal
security of salvation,” at least they agree that Christians need to continue to repent. Basilea
Schlink states that “repentance should be a daily activity for Christians.” Again, she encourages
Christians to “daily pray, ‘Lord, give me the grace of repentance. Grant me a broken heart and a
contrite heart.’“ Therefore, as long as a change of heart is needed, Jesus is calling sinners, as
well as sinners saved by grace, to repentance (Mark 2:17).

And Dead Works
Why does Hebrews 6:1 say, “repentance from dead works” rather than repentance from sin or
evil? One reason is that many of the Jews, especially the leaders, did not consider themselves to
be sinners. They even referred to Gentiles by the name of “sinners” (Mark 2:16; Matthew
11:19). Jesus, however, exposed the self-righteous works these men were doing as not
producing eternal life (Matthew 5:20; 6:1-18; John 5:39-40). Johann Arndt explained, “Hence it
is termed ‘repentance from dead works’ (Hebrews 6:1); or the renunciation of such works as
issue in death.”

Bill Oden                                       14                       Grace Fellowship Church
            The Foundation of Repentance
This principle is seen in such statements by Jesus as, “For I say unto you, that except your
righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case
enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). The Pharisees did many “religious works,”
but they were dead works – not issuing in life. “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint
and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye
to have done, and not leave the other undone” (Luke 11:42). Tithing was not a sin, but when
one thought it made him righteous and thus gave him eternal life, he needed to repent of this
dead work. The Pharisee in the parable of Luke 18:9-14 was not justified, although he pled his
good works of fasting and tithing. Therefore, even though some might be so blind as to not see
themselves as sinners, they are still called upon to repent from dead, yes, even religious, works.

To God
Repentance does not merely result in turning from sin, but also turning to God. Repentance is
not just some form we go through in order to meet religious requirements, but it is a change of
life which brings us face to face with God. The prodigal son was going away from his father
towards evil. When he repented, had a change of heart that produced a turn, he turned away
from evil and back towards his father. So it is for the sinner. Following sin is taking him away
from God towards evil. Repentance turns him around, bringing him to God. Chamberlain puts it
this way: “Repentance is the change in man, brought about by the Holy Spirit, which results in
his turning to God.”

Some of the present “big name” television ministries which overemphasize prosperity and a
good confession do not even talk about repentance. They say that it is a negative concept and
they would rather emphasize the positive. What a mistake they are making. Solomon states in
Proverbs 27, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh
them shall have mercy.” What could be more positive than turning away from sins that
separate one from God (Isaiah 59:2) and turning to God?

This principle of repentance involving a turning to God is seen in the teachings of Jesus in Mark
1:15 where Jesus preaches, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye
and believe the gospel.” This is stated slightly differently in Matthew 4:17 in which Jesus
proclaims, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The words of Jesus to Paul on the
road to Damascus as stated in Acts 26:18 most clearly show this two-fold turning of repentance.
Jesus sends Paul to the Gentiles and states the purpose of this commission, “To open their eyes,
and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God....” Paul sums
up his ministry in Ephesus by declaring, “And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto
you, but have shown you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying

Bill Oden                                      15                       Grace Fellowship Church
            The Foundation of Repentance
both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith toward our Lord
Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).

John the Baptist was sent by God to prepare the way for Jesus by preaching and baptizing unto
repentance. The angel Gabriel told John’s father Zechariah, “And many of the children of Israel
shall he turn to the Lord their God” (Luke 1:16). Therefore, that repentance involves a turning
to God is evidenced in the preparation for Jesus’ ministry through John, in the earthly ministry
of Jesus, and in the heavenly ministry of Jesus to Paul.

And His Works
Not only does repentance involve a turning from evil and dead works to God, but also to God’s
works. This is to be understood in two aspects: first of all, the work does in the repenter; and
secondly, the works God has for the convert to do in Him.

Evil involves works being done in rebellion or disobedience to God’s will. Dead works can
involve works being done for God, but, because of wrong motive (trying to earn what God
wants to give), origin (working in one’s own strength rather than God’s), or way (trying to do
God’s will man’s way), such works are not producing life – neither eternal life nor abundant life
-- (John 10:10). They are, therefore, dead works. When one turns from these evil and dead
works to God, then God is able to do His work in the individual. These works are often in
conjunction with faith, the second of the foundational principles. Repentance and faith go hand
in glove.

Hebrews 6:1-2 describes these six principles (plural) as the foundation (singular). The first two
mentioned are repentance and faith. As stated before in Paul’s summation of his teaching in
Ephesus, he categorizes it all as “repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus
Christ” (Acts 20:21). Jesus links these two foundational truths together in Mark 1:14-15, “repent
ye, and believe (have faith in) the gospel.” Jesus also shows a connection with repentance and
faith in Matthew 21:32, “... and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might
believe him.” The work God does in us is sometimes associated with repentance, sometimes
with faith, and sometimes with both, but that should present no theological problem since true
repentance will lead right into faith.

This work that God does in the sinner when he turns from sin to God is the remission of sins.
The sins are “sent away,” the sins are “forgiven,” and the guilt is “canceled.” “And thou, child,
shall be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to
prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins”

Bill Oden                                      16                       Grace Fellowship Church
             The Foundation of Repentance
(Luke 1:76-77). So the most important aspect of turning to God and his works is the work God
does of remitting, forgiving, and taking away sins.

There is a second aspect of “turning to God’s work,” that is, the work God has for the “forgiven
one” to do. These are not evil or dead works, but they are God’s works. God has a plan for the
believer’s life and there are many good works in this plan. An example of this plan and these
works can be seen in the life of Jesus, our forerunner.

The plan for Jesus’ life had “been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:5, 6).
God’s plan for Jesus to be king was announced before his conception (Luke 1:31-33). His plan
for Jesus to save his people from their sins was announced before his birth (Matthew 1:21), at
his birth (Luke 2:11), and at his presentation to the Lord as a baby (Luke 2:22-38). By the time
Jesus was twelve, he knew that the plan God had for his life was to “be about my (heavenly)
Father’s business” (Luke 2:41-52). He stated this business when he began his ministry at thirty
years of age in Luke 4:18-21 which was to preach, heal, and set at liberty needy people. Jesus
spent the rest of his life fulfilling this plan (Acts 10:38). Involved in the carrying out of this plan
were many works which God had planned for Jesus to do.

Jesus stated in John 4:34 that his meat (man shall not live by bread alone but by every word of
God – Luke 4:4) was to do the will of God that sent him and to finish His (God’s) works. The
work in this case was preaching the good news to the Samaritans that he was indeed the Christ,
the Savior of the world (John 4:34-42). In John 5, Jesus healed an impotent man who could not
walk. He was accused of doing an evil work by the Jews because it was done on the sabbath
day. Jesus showed, however, that he was doing God’s works when he answered in verse
seventeen, “...My Father worketh hitherto and I work.” Jesus further stated in verse twenty
that God showed him his works and would show Jesus greater works. Again, in verse thirty-six,
he reveals that these “works which the Father hath given me to finish” bore witness of his being
sent by the Father. There are many other examples of this principle that could be given, but
suffice it to say that Jesus finished the work which God gave him to do (John 17:4, 19:30).

God also has a plan and works for his people. This is illustrated in the parable of the man taking
a far journey in Mark 13:34-47. Jesus states that the man, who represents the son of man,
“...left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work....” Repentance
turns us to God and his works. The most basic aspect of this work (which as stated above ties
directly into repentance) is believing. When asked by the people, “What shall we do that we
might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, this is the work of God, that
ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:28-29). Jesus even went so far as to say that
believers in him would do the works that he had done and even greater works (John 14:11-12).

Bill Oden                                         17                        Grace Fellowship Church
             The Foundation of Repentance
Jesus chose twelve for the purpose that they might do certain works (Mark 3:14-15). He sent
them forth to do these works (preaching that men should repent, casting out devils and healing
– Mark 7:12-13) during his own ministry (Mark 7:8-13). Additionally, he commissioned them to
do these works after he would ascend (Mark 17:14-20). This is similarly true of all believers –
that God has a work, consisting of works, that he has planned for each individual believer.
Repentance turns us from evil and dead works to God and his works. Ephesians 2:10 perfectly
summarizes this whole concept by declaring, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ
Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

One specific work that is necessary to mention, since it coincides so directly with repentance, is
the work of forgiveness. Just as the Lord has forgiven a person his sins, so he requires that
person also to forgive others. Jesus taught his disciples to pray this way (Matthew 6:12; Luke
11:4) and had some severe warnings to those who would not forgive (Matthew 18:21-35; Mark
11:25-26). Jesus instructed his disciples in Luke 17:3-5 that they should forgive someone who
had trespassed against them seven times a day and who had repented seven times a day. They
asked for an increase in faith. Peter (perhaps later) came back for a clarification in Matthew
18:21-22: “...Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times
seven? Jesus said unto him, I say not unto them, until seven times: but until seventy times
sent.” Of course, this kind of forgiveness is not natural to man, but is one of those fruits of
repentance that God works in man as he asks God to change his heart.

Two questions have been answered in this paper. In answering the first question, “What is a
foundation, and why is repentance a foundational principle?”; several points have come to
light. A foundation is to be laid at the beginning, and it is to be built upon. It is essential for the
work’s endurance. The foundation Christ wants to lay in his people’s lives is not just doctrinal,
but to be lived out in relationship with Him. This threefold point was referred to as “the person,
principles, and practice of Christ.”

It was then demonstrated how that repentance met every one of these foundational criteria. It
is a “first principle” preached at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. Repentance is essential to
the work of Christ, especially that of salvation and discipleship. Doctrines such as forgiveness,
remission of sins, being changed, relationships with other people, and many other doctrines are
based upon the foundation of repentance. Finally, repentance is not only a doctrine to learn,
but one to practice. As repentance is practiced, one will come face to face with Jesus Christ.

Bill Oden                                         18                        Grace Fellowship Church
            The Foundation of Repentance
The second question: “What did Jesus teach about repentance?”, opened up many avenues of
truth. After looking at many definitions of repentance as well as the meaning of the Greek
words metanoeo and metamelomai, which are translated “repent” and “repentance,” the
following definition was established: “A change of heart given by God which results in a turning
from evil and dead works to God and his works.” This definition was then taken phrase by
phrase and the teachings of Christ on repentance were discussed. Such doctrines and subjects
as emotions, penance, grace, attitudes, recurring sins, daily repentance, religious works, and
God’s plan for man’s life as well as the obvious doctrines and subjects mentioned in the
definition itself were included.

There were also three areas of relevance to the contemporary church which were mentioned.
One was the importance for Christians to be established in the six foundational doctrines
spoken in Hebrews 6:1-2. The second area of relevance dealt with the lack of even the mention
of repentance in many witnessing plans and by many evangelists. The third application was for
the individual Christian to understand repentance, so that he no longer be under the bondages
and misunderstandings perpetrated in the past and present by so many that are even in the
church. When this foundation is solidly laid, then, and only then, will God permit His church to
go on unto perfection.

Bill Oden                                     19                       Grace Fellowship Church

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